FL District Considers Cutting All School Clubs Rather Than Approve Gay-Straight Alliance

classroom2It’s National Gay-Straight Alliance Day, but one Florida school district isn’t celebrating: The Lake County School Board is considering eliminating all extracurricular clubs at the middle-school level rather than allowing students to form GSAs.

After the Board denied a 14-year-old’s petition to start a GSA at Carver Middle School, the ACLU stepped in to offer some support (and possible legal muscle).  Citing the federal Equal Access Act, the ACLU pointed out that school districts can’t pick and choose which clubs should be permitted based on the topics students may discuss.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

School Board members Bill Mathias, Debbie Stivender and Chairwoman Kyleen Fischer spoke in favor of a rule that would ban extra-curricular clubs in secondary schools while fellow board members Tod Howard and Rosanne Brandeburg favored banning extra-curricular clubs only in middle schools.

Fischer said the district should focus on education and that “social engineering” is not the job of the School Board. “It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them,” she said.

Howard said he was worried about the clubs that would be lost under stricter rules. “I am very concerned that one club would push out the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things,” he said.

Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT-rights group, says this is typical of Lake County, which has consistently denied  gay students a safe and inclusive learning environment.  In 2011, a teacher at a Lake County school told his students that “gay men and women should be allowed to serve openly in the military only if they were sent to the front lines with no weapons.”

“The Lake County School Board continues to enable bullies over the safety of their students,” said Equality Florida’s Michael Farmer. “This is just the latest example of the need for the Lake County School Board to adopt an anti-bullying policy and a nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT students and staff.”